Possessing the key expertise and skills for the job role is not enough to crack an interview. You must also have the tact and the intelligence to handle various tough situations with multiple stakeholders at work. It is common for interviewers to ask behavioral questions that address your people skills, problem-solving skills, and emotional intelligence.
Answering difficult interview questions is undoubtedly one of the most unnerving steps of the job search process. But to help you prep for your next interview, we have rounded up some of the recruiters’ favorite and most commonly asked interview questions. Not every recruiter will ask you the same questions, but chances are they will be somewhat similar. And with the help of this list, you can step into your next interview more confident and better prepared.
1. What do you dislike the most about your current job?
What it means: The interviewer wants to know if you will bash your current employer, boss, or coworkers. They often ask this question to understand if you are trustworthy or loyal. Sure, you may be leaving because you are unhappy with something, but that is no reason to dish the dirt out to your potential employer.
How to answer: Answering this question calls for some diplomacy. Point out your strength, what you are most passionate about, and what you can bring to the table at the new job. Tell them you are looking for a job that allows you to explore these opportunities. The key to answering this question is to position the thing you dislike the most as something the new job can solve for you or allows you to pursue.
2. Why should we hire you?
What it means: There’s a fine line between being confident and arrogant, and the interviewer wants to know just that.
How to answer: Speak in a way that shows you need the job as much as the company needs you. Before your interview, learn more about the company, map your skills to the company’s offering, and illustrate how you can add value to the team. Your answer must show the interviewer how you are uniquely qualified to take on a specific set of tasks. Never compare yourself to other candidates.
3. Why do you want to work here?
What it means: Recruiters want to make sure you have put thought into your decision to work with the company. They want to determine if you are a good fit and will add value to the team.
How to answer: However true it may be, you don’t want to respond with a careless answer like, “It pays me better than my current job”. Take the time to go through the company’s About page and social platforms to understand them, their work, and their culture better. You will definitely find something that will spark your interest. For instance, it could be the fact that they are listed as a ‘Great place to work’ consistently for years, or have recently innovated a unique solution in the field, or encourage employees to develop skills by offering training programs. Use that learning to tell the recruiter why you’d like to be a part of the company.
4. What is your biggest weakness?
What it means: Recruiters love to ask this question to see how comfortable you are talking about your flaws or limitations and if you are willing to make an effort to improve them.
How to answer: There is a good way and a bad way to answer this question. And one thing for certain is that you should not say, “I don’t have any!” Also, presenting a weakness that is secretly a strength, such as, “I work too hard” is simply just lying and defeats the purpose of the question. So it would be appropriate to select a weakness that you are working to overcome. Be honest, stay composed, and show that you are solution-focused. For example, you can describe a time when you needed to brush up your skills and what steps you took to improve them.
5. What is your biggest strength?
What it means: This question gives you a chance to shine. It is an opportunity for you to stand out from the rest of the applicants by highlighting your expertise and competencies to the interviewer.
How to answer: You may have a wealth of positive attributes and talents, but it is very important to choose the ones that suit the role you are applying for – be it skill-based or character-based. When describing technical skills give specific examples of how you applied your strengths to drive organizational success. And when describing character-based strengths, don’t make the mistake of quoting commonly used attributes that recruiters may have heard a thousand times by other applicants, like – multi-tasker, quick learner, humble, honest, etc.
6. What is your greatest achievement?
What it means: recruiters ask this question because they are interested in getting a sense of your work ethic and what you consider as your most valuable accomplishment.
How to answer: Be sure to talk about an achievement that is work-related. Briefly explain your accomplishment and your effort, and why it is important to you. To form a comprehensive and clear answer, you must use the STAR method that follows four well-defined steps – Situation, Task, Approach, and Result. Often used by managers to give feedback, the STAR model can be effectively applied when playing up your accomplishments too.
- Situation: In the first part of your response, briefly outline the situation by giving it context. Talk about the issue, people involved or expectations, etc.
- Task: Now explain your role in the situation, the tasks you took on, and the expertise/skills you offered that helped complete the task.
- Action: Next, give details of what you did to handle the situation. Describe how your contribution solved the problem, and contextualize it to the role you are applying for.
- Result: And finally, close the loop by telling them about the positive outcome of your work. Make it impactful by giving quantifiable examples like ‘cost saved’, ‘processes improved’, and ‘people influenced’.
7. Describe a time you overcame an obstacle
What it means: It is often baffling to answer this type of question if you are not prepared, but the question is designed to help the recruiter discover how you deal with difficulty. They want to know if you are a meticulous problem solver who plans every step of the way or someone who can think on your feet. Either way, they are looking for resilience and how you cope under pressure.
How to answer: Applying the STAR method, provide a brief summary of the challenge, your involvement or role in it, and how the problem was solved because of your actions/decisions. The key is to focus on how you overcame the challenge, rather than the problem itself. However, saying you have never faced a challenge suggested that you lack self-awareness and may not be ambitious. Also, leave your personal obstacles or experiences outside the interview. Speaking about an incident that is not related to the role is not something the interviewer wants to know.
8. Tell us about a time you failed
What it means: There are two main things the interviewer is looking for when they ask you this question. One, they want to see if you can take responsibility for your actions. And two, is to see if you can learn from your past mistakes.
How to answer: Failing at work is not something we ever want to talk about, let alone to our next potential employer. But stay calm, be honest, and concise when relaying about the time you failed. Detail out what you learned from the incident, talk about an alternate course of action that you could’ve taken to avoid failure in hindsight, and of course, give an example of how you plan on handling a similar situation in case it arises in the future.
9. How do you deal with conflict?
What it means: Workplace conflict is inevitable, but showing the recruiter how you are capable of handling the situation is crucial. Recruiters want to hire someone who they know can rise to the occasion and do the right thing in difficult situations
How to answer: Oftentimes, solving problems requires you to be a good listener. So, demonstrate with an example that shows you have empathy and good problem-solving skills. You want the recruiter to know that even when you did not completely agree with the opposing point of view, you tried to collaboratively devise a solution that was acceptable to both parties.
10. What is something people assume about you, but is incorrect?
What it means: The objective of this question is to see how self-aware you are. It acts as a window into your personality. By not answering this question thoughtfully, you are telling the interviewer that you either are not aware or do not care what your colleagues or bosses feel about you and helps weed out candidates that may be difficult to work with.
How to answer: Providing a misconception about you that is neither positive nor negative is a safe bet to answer this type of question. But if quoting an assumption that is negative, spin it in a way that shows it had a positive outcome. For instance, you could say once aware of the misconception you instantly adapted and made amends to your behavior to suit the situation.